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Source : Emiliano Bar, Unsplash
June 5, 2023
Author : Alex Bustillos
A panel of state officials approved a resolution increasing the amount that Alabama state will pay Caddell Construction for building a new prison in Elmore County to nearly $ 1 billion.
In a contract signed in April 2022, Caddell Construction was allotted an initial guaranteed maximum price of $623 million for constructing a 4000-bed prison in Elmore County, and the project was to be completed by January 2026.
The Alabama Corrections Institution Finance Authority (ACIFA), including Gov. Kay Ivey, the State Finance Director Bill Poole, lawmakers, and others raised far above the $623 cap to $975 million, increasing by 57% and pushing back the project completion to June 2026.
Poole said, "The early estimates were based on a very preliminary design." He added, "The design is still not 100 percent complete. We increased educational and vocational space. Inflation has had a significant impact on construction costs, as is seen across all economic sectors. So, we're trying to keep all of those costs contained to the greatest extent possible."
In October 2021, the legislature and Ivey agreed on a plan to build two 4,000-beds men's prisons in Elmore County and Escambia County. The preliminary design for the plan totaled $1.3 billion, along with $400 million in funding raised from the federal Rescue Plan Act dollars. Initially, the plan suggested Elmore County prison would provide the inmates with medical and mental health care; later, in 2023, the legislature added educational and vocational space in the prison.
The contract for Elmore County Prison was allotted to Caddell after Alabama's lawmakers passed the bill enabling state agencies to omit the usual competitive bid process. The Legislative Services Agency Director said signing a deal with Caddell will save the state $75 million by locking in material prices earlier.
However, Poole said, the true project cost will not be known until they receive a guaranteed maximum price around the summer. "We are clearly going to get a better idea where that maximum price will land as these bids for the work packages bid out, but we can only speculate." He added, "Nobody knows right now how that bid process is going to come out."
Construction on the project site has already started, and the Alabama Department of Corrections officials have opened the project out for bids from contractors for further site development.
According to Poole, the site's scope has expanded to cover additional accommodations. For instance, they have significantly increased their size, square footage, and content for educational and vocational spaces. It is really crucial and incurs additional costs.
The other mega-prison in Escambia County is currently undergoing negotiations in the design phase. He added,'' We will have to secure additional funds based on the current cash-on-hand level." Much of the design in Escambia prison will mirror the design in Elmore prison, but it won't include the specialty medical and mental health care facilities.
It is ADOC's second billion-dollar commitment in 2 months, after entering into a $1 billion contract with YesCare(formerly Corizon), a private prison medical provider.
The single 4000-bed prison's billion-dollar project is approximately equal to the Alabama Department of Mental Health budget, serving more than 200,000 Alabamans yearly.
Both House Speaker Nathaniel Ledbetter and Republican Rep. Rex Reynolds, the chairman of the House general fund committee, said this steep increase in price has been due to inflation, which has seen a surge in construction material costs.
“That’s tough. We didn’t see that coming when we first voted on the bond money,” Reynolds stated.
Some Democrat officials have spoken out against this increase. Democratic Rep. Chris England tweeted, “Actual prison construction hasn’t even started yet but we are already up to a billion dollars. We haven’t even started talking about paying for the second prison yet.”
Category : State Government